Dear Ontario Conference Pastors, Head Elders, Clerks, and Communication Leaders:
On Friday, July 16 at 12:01 a.m., Ontario will enter step 3 of the provincial reopening plan.
What does this mean for places of worship?
Indoor and outdoor religious services, rites, or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services, are permitted with capacity limited to allow for the physical distancing of 2 metres.
Ontario Conference Guidance
To reduce the spread of the very contagious and severe variants of COVID-19, we must remain committed to following a careful and gradual approach to returning to in-person worship, gatherings, and activities.
For churches previously approved for reopening, during step 3:
- The Provincial government does not specify a cap on the number of attendees to religious services and a maximum of 1000 in certain other gathering situations. Notwithstanding the Ontario Conference takes a more measured position, Sabbath worship services, weddings, and funerals should be kept to one room to a maximum of 300 persons while maintaining 2 meters of physical distancing, wearing masks and all other Provincial, Municipal, and Conference guidelines are to remain in place. Receptions and repasts remain suspended.
- No socializing is to take place before or after any of the services. Attendees should leave the building and parking lot promptly.
- All attendees must be pre-registered and pre-screened, and the records kept securely for a minimum of 30 days; this is critical if there is a need for contact tracing.
- Keep seating and activities away from areas with high airflow (i.e. not directly in front of or under air vents).
- Keep a cleaning log to document activities and demonstrate vigilance.
- Vocalists, musicians- Indoor group singing and wind instruments have been linked to numerous COVID-19 outbreaks worldwide. To avoid the risks:
- Limit the number of musicians and or vocalists. Avoid group or congregational singing.
- Performers must maintain at least three metres distance from the congregation or be separated by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier. Clean and disinfect barriers after each use.
- All vocalists and musicians should remain at least two metres apart from each other.
Please note that church-sponsored day and overnight trips remain suspended until further notice. However, individuals or families can decide to get together for outings on their own. We will continue to monitor the situation, review and update our internal guidelines.
As the province steadily moves towards fully reopening, if not already completed, your church should prepare and present a reopening plan to the Conference Risk Management Department even if the thinking is not to return to in-person services just yet; this will prevent last-minute scrambling in the future.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you the strength and wisdom needed to navigate these unprecedented times.
- Mansfield Edwards (President)
- Jakov Bibulovic (Executive Secretary)
- Virene Meikle (Treasurer)